Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mistletoe and Wine

By the time you read this Christmas will be well and truly finished. You will have indulged and suffered the consequences, no doubt. You will have overdosed on TV movies and distant relations, on alcohol, on food, on party crackers and silly hats, on loud renditions of I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizzard, or any of the other numerous ‘70s Christmas hits. They’re almost as traditional as We Wish You A Merry Christmas or Good King Wenceslas, these days.

Different people have different attitudes to Christmas, of course. Some people will go to extraordinary lengths to celebrate it, even getting themselves into severe difficulties in order to enjoy it. Indeed, I’ve known some who will still be paying off last year’s debts as the new season approaches. Other people are less bothered. I put myself into the latter category, since, aside from the TV movies they save up all year and then bombard you with in bewildering clashes all over the Christmas period, I’m not all that interested.

As usual I was meticulously prepared. I set out to do my final, and only, Christmas shopping, at 2.30 on Christmas Eve. I must be the only man in Whitstable - and therefore in the entire world - who walks from Tankerton Circus to Sainsbury’s to do his Christmas shopping an hour and a half before the shops shut. I do it for the bargains, of course, being broke. It’s about a half an hour walk.

The shop was fairly full. People getting in the last bit of shopping, picking up stuff they’d so far forgotten, or maybe, like me, looking for the last-minute bargains. I got a free range chicken for £2.41, a piece of salmon for 70p, a loaf of bread for 10p, and a pot of low fat Cole Slaw for 5p. Not that I usually eat low-fat food, but for 5p, who’s arguing?

A couple of the Sainsbury’s staff at the bargain counter where I picked up the Cole Slaw were singing Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe And Wine with happy gusto. So I paid for the Cole Slaw in other, more horrifying, ways. I paid for it by having Cliff Richard going round and round in my head for the rest of the time.

Christmas time, mistletoe and wine,
Children singing Christian rhymes...


Eventually it came round to getting the vegetables. One of the Managers - Bob, I think his name was - was bellowing out the bargains as they were being reduced. 10p for everything. “Who’d like a cauliflower? 10p. Bag of potatoes? 10p. Spinach. Fruit salad? Everything for 10p.” He was frantically shooting the prices down with his price gun. As soon as it was reduced, people were grabbing it from him. There was a scrum of people trying to get at him, elbowing each other out of the way, ramming each other with their trolleys. I was far too polite at first, but then realised I would end up with nothing, so I joined in too.

I was trying to find an image to describe the picture for you. Eventually I found it on the telly. It was like that scene out of Titanic, where they’re all scrabbling to get into the boats. Bob was like the poor Lifeboat man, trying to sort out the chaos. Except that Bob was also consciously trying to whip up the hysteria, and he didn’t use the price gun to shoot himself. He was having far too much fun to want to shoot himself. Anyway, he’d look fairly silly with price tags stuck all over his head.

In the end I got a fridge full of shopping - enough to last me three days - for £9.75. What a bargain!

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